In the midst of all the Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday hoopla, I’ve heard more about people deciding to #OptOutside instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I think it’s a great idea, and I started doing it years ago when I actually had the whole four-day weekend off work. Now, though, my work is in retail (in a small, locally-owned business), and so I don’t get to enjoy that freedom to explore during the entire holiday weekend: I’m needed elsewhere for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
That doesn’t mean I can’t #OptOutside on a different schedule. And since I had today, the day before Thanksgiving, off work, I could beat the crowds and enjoy hiking in my favorite national park on a beautiful morning.
The forecast for today called for rain starting around noon, so I left home at 6 AM and arrived in Brecksville at the Station Road Bridge trailhead in time to catch a lovely sky-blue-pink (as my mother would have called it) sunrise. By the very few cars I spotted in the parking lot, I expected the Towpath would be relatively empty and peaceful for my walk.
Looking to check another section of the Towpath off my hiking list, I headed north and spent several minutes wandering under the Rt. 82 bridge span, taking photos. A few highways cross the Cuyahoga Valley with high bridges, but in my mind the Rt. 82 bridge is the most elegant, dating back to 1931. The views from underneath give you a real appreciation for architecture and road construction from an earlier time, and the soaring arches provide excellent framing for photos of the valley.
Once I could tear myself away, I followed the Towpath along the canal. While the Ohio and Erie Canal is no longer a complete waterway — some sections having been filled in or diverted — this section of the Towpath enjoys the neighborly presence of a flowing canal for nearly the entire three miles between trailheads. A feeder canal at the Station Road Bridge still diverts water into the canal, and a few local streams add to the flow, making it a quiet but steady presence next to the trail (and home for a few ducks).
The Cuyahoga River, on the other side of the Towpath, lived up to its name’s meaning of “crooked river” as it meandered away and back many times along the trail. I could occasionally get good views of the river and the lone heron or kingfisher in flight before the river would curve away and the trees would block my view. For a flat, level trail, the Towpath offers surprising variety in scenery!
Around the time I reached the three-mile mark on my walk, I had also reached the Frazee House trailhead. Built in the early 1800s for a newly prosperous landowner of the valley, it now houses a museum that is currently closed for the season. With a short stop to refresh myself with water and baked goods, I promised myself I’d return to visit the museum someday before heading back to the trail.
The return to Brecksville took a little less time since I didn’t stop as often for photographs, though I did capture a few glimpses of the sun as well as the advancing clouds, and I finished the hike (6 miles!) with sore feet but refreshed spirit.
For those of you planning to #OptOutside on Friday, I wish you good weather and happy trails!